To review and approve the Scrutiny Panel’s terms of reference.
The DS&GOS introduced the item and informed Members that a draft Terms of Reference (TOR) for the Scrutiny Panels had been prepared for consideration by the Committee. It was noted that there was a proposal for Cabinet to have a similar Corporate Plan Working Group, that would review similar reports. The DS&GOS stated that the six key themes of the Corporate Plan had been provisionally divided into three groups, and that the makeup of each panel would be politically balanced with five Members, including a Chairman from and appointed by the Committee.
Questions and Discussion
i. The CE stated that there was value in the panels being utilised to make better use of the Committee’s time, and that they should work in unison with the new project management proposals. He added that within these proposals, it was suggested that a Cabinet Working Party should be established to monitor major projects. The CE stated that he believed that a wider discussion was first needed to agree the working practices of these arrangements, prior to implementation of the panels, to ensure that they would add value with effective pre-scrutiny.
ii. Cllr S Butikofer stated that she would also like to see more pre-scrutiny take place to ensure better use of Committee time, whilst providing input to policy development, and adding value to projects. The Chairman stated that the proposal would provide greater opportunity for pre-scrutiny, as well as giving back benchers greater opportunity to feed into the Council’s projects.
iii. Cllr P Heinrich stated that he understood the purpose of the proposals, though raised concerns that it could be slightly premature without yet knowing how the panels would operate. The Chairman noted that the proposals had been brought forward at an early stage to ensure that they were ready to begin once working practices had been established. He added that it was not expected that the panels would begin to operate, until this process had been agreed. The DS&GOS noted that the at this stage the Committee were only asked to agree the TOR, to ensure that the panels were ready to operate once working practices had been agreed under the new project management and governance arrangements.
iv. Cllr W Fredericks stated that she felt the proposals were premature and did not want to approve the TOR at this stage. She added that she wanted input into how the panels would operate, and asked whether this could be deferred until that discussion had taken place.
v. Cllr L Withington stated that she supported the method of pre-scrutiny, but raised concerns that the panels would lengthen the process. She added that she could not support the proposals until discussion on the working practices had taken place.
vi. Cllr J Rest stated that he had listened to concerns, but noted that local authorities tended to work slowly, which would delay implementation. As a result, he did not see the need for further delay and suggested that the Committee should approve the TOR.
vii. The DS&GOS noted that the Committee had already agreed to establish Scrutiny Panels at its February meeting, and reiterated that the purpose of agreeing the TOR was to ensure that the panels were ready to begin, once working practices had been established. The Chairman reminded Members that working groups were not a new practice for the Council, and they had been proven to work previously, with ultimate control resting with the Committee.
viii. Cllr P Heinrich stated that he had no problem with the TOR, but it was the timescale of other changes that concerned him. He proposed that the TOR could be agreed on the basis that they would not be implemented until working practices had been established. The DS&GOS confirmed that it was reasonable for the Committee to agree the TOR and await discussion on the new working practices, prior to initiating meetings.
ix. The CE stated that the Scrutiny Panels would provide value to the functioning of the Committee, but it was important that discussion first took place to determine how the panels would align with the new project management and governance framework proposals discussed at GRAC. He added that the Council had to ensure that the process would function in a way that would make best use of the Council’s resources, whilst adding as much value as possible to deliver for the people of North Norfolk.
x. Cllr G Mancini-Boyle stated that he supported the proposals, and suggested that his understanding of sub-committee was to allow greater analysis of topics that would make better use of time for the Committee.
xi. Cllr N Housden stated that the sooner the structure was in place the better, as it would ensure the Committee was ready when required.
xii. Cllr W Fredericks stated that she still had concerns about approving the TOR prior to discussion of the working practices, and suggested that the Committee should consider Cllr P Heinrich’s proposal to approve the TOR, but delay implementation until further discussion had taken place.
xiii. It was proposed by Cllr P Heinrich and seconded by Cllr A Varley to agree the draft TOR and pause implementation of the Panels until working practices had been established.
1. To agree the draft Terms of Reference and pause implementation of the Panels until working practices have been established.